Friday, March 4, 2011

Okay, so so much has happened

     So, I've realized that I am a terrible procrastinator. I know that my last blog was almost a month ago and what's worse is that I was only documenting what had happened before that. And now, here I am a month later, procrastinating blogging another entry since it is so overwhelming to even think about catching you guys up on everything that has happened. So I will describe everything as quickly as possible by summarizing that so so much has happened.
We left off with me describing my exchange dramas and ranting for a good page and a half (which I know all of you found mildly entertaining... although I know some of you *cough*cough* stefanie... skipped through until you saw your name mentioned. It's okay, I do that too)
Anyways, since then I have spent far too much money, drank a little bit too much, and seen a lot of things. After the family and I got home from Melbourne and Sydney, we returned to Canberra and to the Iveys house which was now plus one more Canadian: our friend from Canada Megan had come to see Nicks younger sister Casey.
          Casey and Megan met in Canada when Casey was working at the Convention Center in Kamloops. It turned out that she was the same Megan that we had been family friends with since before I was born. Our dad's were bestfriends, my sister was actually named after her dad (Paul and Paula) so when Megan said she was coming to the Ivey's, we temporarily adopted her. My parents took her to a lot of the places surrounding Canberra (which was super helpful since all of the Ivey's were working so much and Megan had no transportation of her own).
          We went to Tidbinbilla (yes it actually is a place) which is a wildlife reserve outside of Canberra. We saw our first Platypus, which completely blew my mind. The ranger on the reserve said that at one time they had three Platypuses?...platypi?....platypis?... which is incredible since they are still apparently very rare. We also saw live wild emus which scared me half to death. Megan actually spotted them "swimming" which meant that their legs were in the swamp and they just looked like floating swans, but they were just emus with an identity crisis. One word...terrifying. Plus they make this terrifying drum noise in their stomach and they can run up to 50 km/hour...which increases the terrifying factor. To say the least, I got pictures from so so far away. We also saw koalas in their sanctuary, which wouldn't be terribly exciting because every Tom, Dick and Harry Zoo in Australia has koalas but instead of sleeping, which you will see 99% of koalas doing 99% of the time, this Koala actually jumped from tree to tree and was walking around, before it slipped into another 23 hour long nap. For my sister, my dad, and my mom, who have never seen a koala before and expected this to be normal koala behavior, this is only mildly exciting. But I, the wise and experienced Australian traveller, was honestly freaking out. To say that least, every other koala will be sadly unamusing.
         Anyways, after Tidbinbilla, my parents had decided to go to the Blue Mountains by train. I was a bit upset as I couldn't go since I had to save money for the next six months so I could afford to go to school/live. So my parents left, in the most dramatic way, by train at the only heritage railway station in a little town called Quenbeyen.
           It was weird, while they were in Australia, it really didn't feel like I was far away from home. I think I accidently took advantage of the fact that they would always be here, and I don't think I appreciated their presence until they were gone, isn't that how it always goes. It was only when I was hugging them goodbye that I started to get a bit homesick, a big part of what made home feel like home was leaving with them. I do miss them a lot still, and I talk to my sister and my dad almost every week (my mom is currently living it up in the Bahamas with her girlfriends so she's moving on just fine! haha).
           After my parents left, things got a little bit boring, which was nobodies fault but mine. Nick and Casey were working all of the time so it was up to Meg and I to entertain ourselves. That came to a climax when I attempting to learn to drive Nicks car, which is both standard and left hand drive...neither of which I have any substantial experience with. In fact, the last time I attempted to drive standard by myself, I managed to blow up my bestfriend Bryces car (and I am still terribly sorry about that). Needless to say, I was more than a little bit nervous. Nick, trying to be supportive, offered to give me some driving lessons; this turned out to be a big test on our relationship. Turns out boys are fairly attached to their vehicles, which makes accidently grinding the gears all the more stressful. After one driving "lesson" which consisted of hours of bunny hopping and near misses, mixed with Nicks grimacing and tongue biting, his sister Casey offered to teach me how to drive. Luckily she is one of the most laid back people I know, which helped substantially.
       After all was said and done, one week past in a second and we were faced with upcoming school year moving upon us. Nick and I decided to move up the coast towards Lismore a week and a half before the school year was scheduled  to start, to get ready, figure out the living situation, and figure the school thing out.
           We took three days to get up the coast (since it is a 12 hour drive) and spent the first night in camping in Nelson Bay, an hour or so outside of Newcastle. We had spent time here on our last tour of Australia with Bryce and Kevin, so we knew it was still amazing. There are huge sand dunes and amazing beaches in this quiet little town on the central coast so it was much welcomed after my previous week of death by boredom back in Canberra. We decided to take it easy and picked up some dinner to eat on the beach right next to our campsite; it finally started feeling like I was in Australia.
    The next day we woke up, had a quick swim at the beach (where I was pumbled by the crazy shore break... feet flying everywhere and sand absolutely everywhere...awkward), then we moved on up the coast again. The second night we landed in Coffs Harbour, despite our obvious "roughing it" appeal, we got a hotel room. To emphasize how crazy the prices get in season, we came just after school holidays ended and got a massive hotel room for $70/night, it stark comparison to my families hotel room in Merimbula in the peak of summer holidays, so tiny double bed no air conditioning for $180/night; note to everyone wanting to come to Australia, definetly do it end of February. We spent that day and the next in Coffs at the beach and around then finally managed to finish the last leg of the trip up to Lismore... it is nothing like we expected.
          I had spoken to two girls from Lismore that had taken the exchange from here to Kamloops, Canada and they said Lismore was absolutely terrible, so I was expecting the worst. I was actually expecting something like Kamloops; dry, flat, and dusty.
         When we arrived it didn't take long to realize that it was the complete opposite; the surrounding area was so green it hurt to look at, there was rainforests everywhere and some of the strangest animals I have seen ever, and surprise surprise, hills everywhere. It was actually quite a large surprise considering how flat Australia actually is (its the oldest geographical continent so its once massive mountains and landscapes have been eroded down from years of weathering); so despite all odds I do live on a hill
       This is both a lifesaving fact as well as an exhausting one; lifesaving since the downtown core of Lismore is on a flood plane, which is illustrated by almost every building including the mall and the McDonalds are on stilts... my house is not, hence the hill. The exhausting part it exactly the fact that downtown is down the hill, that means grocery stores, markets, possible places of employment... all down that hill, and home is always up. Try packing 9 bags of groceries 3 kms up hill and you will understand the exhausting part. Also, since we are at the top of the hill our university is on the opposite downhill, which means yes..home is always up hill.
              Despite the hills, Lismore is amazing, to me atleast. It is so strange to come here and hear all of the locals talk about what an ugly town it is, but I guess where ever you grow up your already predisposed to not appreciate it fully. I was showing my friend Kristy pictures of Paul Lake during the summer and the winter (the fact that the lake freezes over completely blows these peoples minds) to which she said "how the hell are you happy in Lismore". Honestly... living in a rainforest blows my mind. These people are crazy. 
            Speaking of "these people", they are both crazy and amazing which is a plus, considering I was expecting the worst in the roommates situation. I am so completely lucky as all of my roommates are so funny and so different. When I arrived here, expecting the worst, I was told that I had two roommates that were here...two Americans (dun dun dun!). I have to admit I was initially terrified, until I realized that there was no way customs would let them bring their guns. In all seriousness though, despite my apprehensions they are amazing. They, by the way, are Wiley and Jodi, two forestry students from Arizona who actively chose to live at our dormatories to avoid the mass amount of Americans that were moving into the Orion Dormatories... that fact alone made me realize that we were going to get along. They are definetly here to actually see Australia not to just drink a lot on a beach, which is such a relief.
            Now I have two German roommates, Kirsten and Ahkem (like....back of your throat AHKKKKKKKK em) and they are hilarious. They're here finishing their tourism degrees and working on their english, which is actually pretty good (good enough to mock me atleast..very upsetting). Ahkem has renamed me wasserfall, which is german for Waterfall because he says that I talk so much....I'm assuming that this is a pet name...of course it is.
            Our final roommate is Chris Bush is an Australian. Before he came everyone told me that Chris Bush was like god...and/or jesus....and/or Chuck Norris. Turns out he is actually this massively tall but extremely nice boy who has been soooo patient with all of us. Ahkem, I think, has a bit of a man crush since Chris Bush has so much stuff and will be patient enough to answer all of Ahkems questions (and he has a lot of them). Hilarious sight to see Chris Bush moving in and Ahkems eye lighting up everytime Chris brought in a new box of kitchen toys since the rest of us really have nothing since we're all traveling.
I am so grateful for all of my roommates and more than a little bit relieved that everyone is so patient/amazing.
           Everyone is so nice here though, I found my new mother. Her names Kristy and she takes care of me, which is wonderful. She makes me breakfast and helps me make soup and shes defintely one of those people who will have very spoiled and chubby children one day, I'm just getting her ready for that.
        There's also Halley who was my first friend here aside from my roommates, and when Wiley and Jody left for a week to go travel around Melbourne Halley was my life saver! This is her third year here and she was also here for all of the holidays, so I was told she was more than a little enthusiatic that there were new people moving in. Honestly probably one of the nicest most genuine people that I have met; personally if I was in her position I would have probably been a tiny bit terrified of the over-talkative red headed Canadian (oh yes..red hair now) who decided that she was going to be friends with me but she was so amazing (thank god). At the time there was really only like 10 people staying in our residence so Halley was my amazing entertainment!
           There was also all of the Resident Advisors that were here that immediately eased my anxiety. Bridie and Abbie, two of the first R.A.'s here were super inviting and were insanely patient with my inheritant fear of groups of women. There's also Bridies boyfriend Brett who is also an RA, and who has affectionately given me the awful name of TEZZZZAAA (which is generally yelled...aggressively in a strangely red neck Australia accent). I say I hate it, but it sounds way better than "Terri" does with an Australian accent (they have a hard time dealing with any vowels that aren't yelled). There are so many more people here and I will honestly talk more about them when the time comes.
       I am also trying get amazing at surfing, but I'm not sure I am getting there yet. We live 30 minutes from Byron Bay, which is a massive tourist town, but is pretty quiet during the week which is nice. I brought my board up and we've gone atleast twice so far,and I think it is only a matter of practicing more. My roommate Jody surfs in California so I think we might go together and hopefully I will improve to the point of being .My board is pretty big though, I do want to get better so I can just have a nice little board that I can successfully carry with one hand (I can't actually get my arm all the way around my board now, so I have to carry it over my head, but I'm terrified that I might go bald from all of the wax rubbing my head).
              The past couple weeks have been a blur. Everyone here is absolutely crazy and I swear to god they all have Iron Livers. I've attempted to hibernate in my room at least twice a week just to retain some amount of sanity and that balance has honestly been a life saver. For all those that have travelled to Australia you'll understand the instant headache that I get when I say the word "goon". Goon, as it is affectionately named here, is actually insanely cheap and terrible wine that is sold by the box... I really do mean insanely cheap, like $10 for a box which works out to be around 4.5 bottles of wine. Not all of it is awful though, everyone just manages to choose this terrible stuff call Fruita Lexia, which taste like bad wine with honey mixed in it. And you will not see a wine glass in the place, its either mixed in a massive pint glass with juice (to make it atleast tolerable) or straight out of its lovely aluminum bag. Gag...but you can't argue with the price.
          I still stick to the idea that my choice isn't quite as bad and I owe this to my mom. When she got to Australia she too was amazed by the cheap boxed wine. She picked up 4 boxes, little did she know that boxed wine is "goon". Immediately I had to make fun of her for her wine choice,but at the end of the day its actually not half bad. The brand she got wasn't awful fruit stuff, its actually just a mixed blend so like Gew├╝rztraminer/ Riesling. I'm sorry mom! I was....shudder.....wrong. Seriously, this never happens so lap it up.
          So far theres been toga parties, ship-wrecked parties (oh yes I was a mermaid...no biggy), punch parties (which honestly is both the brilliant and terrible idea of everyone giving $10 to one person to go out and buy as much liquor as they can get and combining it into this awful juice cocktail of death), bbqs, and then just random drinking...like seriously, just to celebrate it being Tuesday or something. All of us exchange kids are in complete shock, each trying to keep up in spurts and each subsequently burning out. But alas, I must actually go and do something productive today, though for me doing this blog has been constantly procrastinated. I feel like it will be easier now that I've caught everyone up. I promise to write more often...(...two months later).
Hope all is well my pets! Miss all of you!

    

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Long Overdue and Painful First Update

Okay.... I'm going to try to do this.
For those of you who know me (I'm assuming anyone who reads this would), I am the worlds worst procrastinator. I am horrible disorganized and awful at communicating, which is why I have made the pain-stricken decision to start a travel blog. This comes two years after my first major trip sans le famile, in which I lacked almost all communication home and couldn't quite remember where I had been.
 This time it is a bit different, since I am not quite traveling, I am living in Australia and going to school here. I have been here for almost a month and I have documented absolutely nothing! Again..the procrastination thing.
I have been just trying to take in my surroundings for the last little while, and before December 20th I wasn't even sure I was going to make it here. I am actually in Australia on exchange through my school in Canada. The exchange sounded simple and conveinant at first, until I saw the paperwork involved. The exchange program warned us about the paper work and told us that they "only wanted applicant who were committed to doing the exchange program", hence the paper work; it was quite a lot but it was still doable, or so I thought. Just as I thought that I had conquered the massive mound of paperwork that was needed to get me here, the mound miraculously grew in size...substantially. Whether it was acceptance to the program at my school, acceptance to the University in Australia, confirmation of enrollment codes, visas, plane tickets.....my future in Australia seemed very unlikely. My family, assuming I would be in Australia by December, had gone out on a limb and had bought tickets to Australia for December 15th, so that they could be with me at my boyfriends families house for Christmas. As their departure date crept up, my morale depleted. No word from Southern Cross, which meant no Confirmation of Enrollment Code, which meant no Visa, and no plane tickets. The 15th came and went, and after a teary eyed goodbye to my family, I prepared to spend Christmas alone. Luckily, I live in an amazing place, three doors down from my bestfriend Stefanies family, who quickly offered to adopt me for Christmas. While Stef and I planned our drunken and disfunctional Christmas together, I had not given up all hope of a beach Christmas with my family. It all came down to an amazing and rather unlucky employee at Southern Cross University whom, after she informed that all of the people in charge of my file for exchange were unavailable, was bombarded with a sobbing explanation of my lonely Christmas in my empty house. Needless to say, my pathetic performance had some effect on her, she went completely out of her way and possibly above her authority to give me the code needed for my visa. Immediately I launched my visa application (along with another very emotional plea to the Visa Bureau) and was granted the visa overnight, and one week later I was on a highly overpriced and last minute flight to Australia just in time for Christmas Eve Day.
   Let me tell you, there is a lot of very different people flying across the world on Christmas Eve: I met Dale, who after being ran over in a hit and run accident and almost losing both of his legs, decided to drop everything and to travel all over the world. He had just finished a tour of the Australian outback a few months before and was taking the flight to New Zealand with no real plans other than "to putt around" for a year and then off to India. When he said that he had almost lost both legs in the accident, the cynical side of me assumed that he was overreacting, but when he showed me his leg, the one that had been "reattached", it was hugely obvious that there was no overreaction involved. He couldn't actually feel his left leg from the knee down, but here he his, on a plane by himself to New Zealand . It's strange how it takes something so debilitating to force someone to change their life, he said it was the worst and the best thing that had ever happened to him. Like I said, very interesting people travel on Christmas Eve.
     When I switched planes in New Zealand, waved goodbye and good luck to Dale, I met an Australian girl from outside of Sydney who had just returned from a school exchange to Abbotsford which is just outside of Vancouver. Strange coincidence, she was at the end of her journey as I was just at the beginning of mine. Surprising, she loved Abbotsford, said that Canadians were hilarious and the Abbotsford nightlife (which she confided mostly consisted of cow-tipping) was interesting. When we finally got on the plane I had a seat beside a fellow Canadian ,Robert who, along with his partner, were en-route to celebrate Christmas with his partners family in Brisbane. His partner, who was Australian, had traveled to Canada for work with his girlfriend (he didn't know he was gay) when he met Robert. The two fell in love, Roberts partner finally came out to his family and they have now been together for 15 years! I thought long distance was hard enough, these two were unbelievable. The two are married in Canada but when they travel to Australia (where gay marriage is not recognized in all but one state) they are not. He kept joking that as soon as the plane landed that he was a single man. Very cute and amazing how much they went through to be together!
     Finally after 17 hours we finally landed in Sydney! My bags arrived right on time and only a little bit out of sorts. Bryce, my other bestfriend, has decided to send a present along with me for my boyfriend Nick, and this present was the source of a few strange looks flashed my way as I walked through customs. Bryce has sent along gumballs for Nick, since he has a huge sweet tooth and you can't get gumballs in Australia. While the present was innocent enough, the bag of gumballs had been ripped during transport, which led to me, walking through the airport with a literal trail of gumballs falling out behind me. At first I tried to repair the situation, but the gumballs were everywhere, so I gave up and walked on, my balls falling out every which way.
     After the customs officers had a bit of a laugh, they finally let me through and I was met in the arrival gates by my very wonderful boyfriend Nick. It was so weird to be back in Australia, but it felt a bit like being back home. It felt even more so like home once we reached Canberra and my family, Nicks families, and almost all of Nicks moms family were there to greet us. It was a mad house! I was overwhelmed and so thankful to be there for Christmas, but I was also working on an hour of sleep so after I met everyone I snuck away found my bed and slipped into a deep and long awaited coma.
                       The next two weeks were a whirlwind. Christmas was amazing, no turkey for us (which blew my mothers mind), instead seafood lunch and plenty of wine. From there my family and I took off to Melbourne to visit our friends Chrissy and Mike in Torquay. I will update about that tomorrow, I have spent far too much time in front of my computer today!